It’s pretty hard to top the Orang Utan experience we just had.
As we drove on to Annah Rais Longhouse, there was subdued discussion – almost like we were still processing all that had happened. So from the wildlife at the Rehabilitation Centre, we continued up to the Longhouse for a cultural experience. Our only stop was for a bit of Durian shopping – best done on the side of the road. Apparently.
Annah Rais Longhouse is a village of Bidayuh people, open to the public to encourage cultural awareness. It is a traditional longhouse community, living in what looks like one big, long building. It is sectioned off into separate houses for each family unit, but they remain connected at every point through communal areas and walkways.
The ‘houses’ are built with any resources they have available – a lot of it being bamboo. The residents decorate their doors with artwork connected to their tribe and family history. They all share a few communal kitchens, with their farming areas (including chickens) surrounding the buildings. They even have their traditional “heads” on display in the Main (Ceremonial) Room, however we were assured that these are purely for display only.
When you arrive, your first stop is the Welcome Building. Not sure if that is what it is officially called, but that is how Annie described it to us. Either the Chief of the Longhouse, or his appointed representative of the day will be there to greet you, and share a glass of their home made spirit with you. Unfortunately B does not drink, so it was left to me to join in. As wonderful as it was to share a drink with the Chief (lucky us!), the drink was … okay. Again, cultural experience much better!
There is an entrance fee for Annah Rais, and this is the point of payment. Unfortunately I don’t recall how much nor did I note it down. But don’t stress – I think it was worth it!
The longhouse has a common walkway, interweaving in and out of the buildings and bringing it together as a community. It is all built high off the ground, and almost completely open to the public. Annie mentioned that more areas are open to those who do homestays as well.
There were so many ‘rooms’ and areas that we saw. In each area, the residents were always welcoming. Some of the kids were curious about our own small fry. Then the element of ‘play’ was introduced and everybody was having fun! S & N were shown the basics of a spinning top, with plenty of opportunity for practice. It was all really sweet.
At one point, S asked why they build their homes out of rubbish. He was asking because there was one part of the building that was built from obvious remnants. A corner was held up with some old crates and bins. This led to a really interesting discussion about the resourcefulness of the longhouse inhabitants. We compared it with our own home back in Australia, where so many people live with a certain “throw-away” attitude. In the longhouse, there is so much use in everything – it would be very wasteful to simply throw it away. The great news is that even a year later, S still appreciates this. We maintain an ongoing discussion about using various items in various ways.
So after some great exploring and learning, we said goodbye and thank you to Annah Rais Longhouse. It was a long-ish drive home (about an hour) but a very worthwhile drive. Orang Utans in the morning; History and culture in the afternoon. And lucky enough to have a driver who didn’t mind the kids and I napping in the car on the way home.